The old and the new keep Juve in contention

It all started on September 19th in the year 2000. David Trezeguet, a high profile 40 billion lira signing from the then French champions AS Monaco, scored his first goal for Juventus – an 83rd minute winner against Panathinaikos in the Champions League.

Nine years later, the 32-year-old Frenchman, who spent his formative years in Argentina watching his father finish his own playing career, celebrated his 167th goal for the Bianconeri, making him the most prolific foreign goalscorer in the club’s history.

The man Trezeguet overtook in the scoring charts was Omar Sivori, the legendary second striker, one of “the angels with dirty faces”, who would play for Argentina and then Italy as an oriundo in the `50s and `60s. “The goal has been realised, but the season continues. I am very happy. I have arrived at a goal that was very important for me personally. Reaching Sivori is something that I didn’t expect when I arrived at Juve”Trezeguet said while holding his shirt aloft in front of the Bianconeri’s travelling support.

“Hosana, King David!” La Gazzetta dello Sport roared in tribute to a truly imperious centre-forward who has rarely, if ever, got the recognition he deserves outside of Italy. Frequently derided for “going missing” by the English Press and all too often remembered as the striker who missed the crucial penalty in the 2006 World Cup final instead of the winner in Euro 2000, it’s time to pause and reflect on Trezeguet’s achievements in Turin over the last decade.

Trez became the Serie A Capocannoniere in just his second season with Juventus, scoring 32 goals in all competitions. He has found the net on 15 or more occasions in six of his ten years in Italy and is on record as scoring a goal every other game in Europe. A four-time Scudetto winner – if you count the two revoked after the Calciopoli scandal as the club do – Trezeguet’s actual presence on the pitch is often questioned, but the stats above suggest his presence in the history books will not.

His cold, moody and sometimes slightly aloof demeanour certainly hasn’t helped his image in the eyes of the game’s fans and pundits, but you could quite simply argue that those attributes have made him the player he is today. Just as with Zinedine Zidane, who Jorge Valdano said had a hard drive for a brain that processed the right decision for every possible situation, you get the feeling that Trezeguet is equally complex, as are several of the players from that generation of French footballers who dominated the international scene in the late `90s and early `00s.

Always ready enough to ally himself with Juventus’ illustrious history and to acknowledge the role the club has played in shaping him as a player, Trezeguet has often expressed his desire to leave. He testified against Luciano Moggi, the man who brought him to Juventus in 2000 and allegedly wouldn’t let him move to Barcelona in 2004, in the GEA trial in 2006.

On scoring his 15th goal of the 2006-07 season in Serie B, he made a typically Italian gesture towards the then Juventus President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli that he’d had enough of slumming it in the Second Division and would now be leaving. And more recently, he did his best to discredit Claudio Ranieri after “the Tinkerman” left him out too much following his recovery from a double knee operation.

His disruptive attitude persuaded the Juventus board to flaunt him discreetly on the transfer market in the summer, but out of respect for his place in the club’s history, director of sport Alessio Secco said he would only sell Trezeguet if the destination suited him. He is likely to return to France, where he’ll finish his career, in the summer, but in the meantime, Trezeguet has done enough to remind the Curva Scirea why they should still love and always remember him.

Asked if he believes Juventus can win the Scudetto for the first time after Calciopoli, Trezeguet, the Bianconeri’s top scorer this season, replied: “Sure I believe it. Now we have to rediscover our continuity. We have 15 days in which to work, with the return of some injured players, then a decisive phase of the season starts for us.”

Saturday evening’s 5-2 victory over Atalanta was called “another Juve binge” by La Gazzetta dello Sport, reminding readers that it was the second time the Bianconeri have scored five goals in their last three games. However, instead of being met with praise, the performance was received with scepticism. “Juve are back. They didn’t fly but ran. It’s true, there isn’t much to frighten Inter”Luca Calamai wrote.

The implication being that despite scoring five goals and seeing three disallowed, Juventus weren’t convincing, in fact, their performance was strange. No more so was that apparently demonstrated than in the diminutive Mauro Camoranesi scoring a header. Il Corriere della Sera aimed its sights at the Bianconeri’s defence, which was accused of defending too high and twice let Atalanta back into the game, at 2-1 and 3-2. Given Juventus’ backline is also four-fifths Italy’s, alarm bells are understandably ringing ahead of next summer’s World Cup.

There were positive signs, though, as the old guard and new – recently criticised – signings blended well together, sharing the load going forward. Like Trezeguet said, the upcoming international break gives Juventus time to prepare and to recover a number of injured players from Amauri and Ale Del Piero to Momo Sissoko and Claudio Marchisio.

The question is, can Juventus find the level of continuity required of them and will Inter drop any points to make the meeting between the two sides on December 6 really mean something? After all, no team has had a seven-point lead at the top of Serie A after just eleven weeks of the season and – as Jean-Claude Blanc intimated during the week – an even greater gap is simply unacceptable considering the €55.3m spent on new players in the summer. Fortunately for the Bianconeri, Inter were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Roma on Sunday evening and their lead cut to five points accordingly.

Talking Points

  • The Antonio Cassano debate scaled new heights this week. After doing his level best to undo all the good work he has done in showing a new, more mature side to his character by telling Samp fans they need to “eat shit” every once in a while last weekend, Cassano found himself at the centre of another controversy. Sampdoria President Riccardo Garrone told Radio Capital that a “very very ugly story” was keeping Cassano out of the Italy squad. La Stampa speculated that Garrone was alluding to the relationship or apparent lack of one Cassano has with Marcello Lippi’s son who is an influential football agent while La Repubblica suggested Cassano’s former mentor Walter Mazzarri had advised Lippi against selecting him.
  • Just when you thought everything that could be squeezed out of the Calciopoli scandal had been, new quite astounding revelations emerged from the trial in Napoli. Manfredi Martino, the former secretary of the National Refereeing Commission, alleged that the balls used to draw referees for games in the 2004-05 season were in fact “tricked”. Martino’s accusation has come under scrutiny, though. He was asked why he didn’t make more of his belief that the balls were “discoloured” and “used” at an earlier date, to which he replied the Carabinieri who interviewed him in 2006 must not have clearly “verbalised” it to the trial’s chief prosecutors.
  • All is not well at Napoli. Despite still being unbeaten in five games under Walter Mazzarri following a scoreless draw away to Catania, Fabio Quagliarella’s angry reaction to being substituted has got the city talking. Taken off with just six minutes remaining, the 26-year-old striker launched a “vaffa” towards Mazzarri and carried on his tirade while sat on the bench. Quagliarella has struggled for form this season and felt he needed the extra minutes to give him some continuity. However, his recent revelation that it’s hard to forego pizza and mozzarella in Napoli is perhaps another reason for his poor performances.
  • Lazio’s terrible run continues. The Biancocelesti lost 2-1 at home to Milan, conceding goals from Brazilian duo Alexandre Pato and Thiago Silva, who also scored an own goal. Davide Ballardini is now expected to become the seventh managerial casualty in Serie A this season. Expect former fans’ favourite Sinisa Mihajlovic to be in contention to replace him.
  • Marcello Lippi had a few surprises up his sleeve as he announced his Italy squad for friendlies against Holland and Sweden over the next 10 days. Livorno’s highly rated young playmaker Antonio Candreva and Cagliari midfielder Davide Biondini received their first ever full international call ups while Giampaolo Pazzini earned a re-call after missing recent World Cup qualifiers.
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